May 30, 2005
RSS - Great tool or the latest version of spam
You can't go many places on the Internet these days without hearing about the virtues of RSS. As a marketing tool, communication tool, distribution tool, it certainly has some wonderful attributes. But, as with many useful Internet tools, it now is in danger of becoming this year's comment spam.
The Internet marketing guru crowd has a knack for finding the easy way to get short term marketing results for things and then packaging them up as the next great thing. The net result is a white hot tool that burns out in a blaze of overuse and search engine abuse.
In my opinion, RSS is headed down that path. There is no denying its long term usefulness as a means for delivering information and the next round of web browsers will certainly incorporate RSS reading, but one of the great values of RSS when it comes to blogs in particular, is the ability to distribute frequently updated pages that search engines adore.
Once that light bulb went on in the guru's head, the party was over. Spam blogs will soon take over real content blogs in number. A spam blog is a blog that is set-up to reproduce the content of many real blogs, via RSS feeds, based on keywords. To the reader with eyeballs, the blog has no value. The search engine spider, well, its hard to tell. In some cases the spammers are actually reproducing the exact content of well-read blogs.
Search engines will eventually choke on this new form of spam and will have to reconsider how they index and count it. When that happens the gurus will move on to something else but the effectiveness of RSS as a tool for real blogs may be damaged.
Okay, other than ranting about this, let me add. Don't buy or use software or programs that promise to create thousands of keyword rich pages for you with the push of a button. On the surface this may seem to have some appeal but it's cheating. And cheating is no way to build a business. If you are out to promote a thing and make a tiny bit of cash on the Internet, then those types of things may allow you to do so. But if you intend to build a business or a brand and actually create something of value, do it the old fashioned way.
Create good content, integrate your web site, blog and ezine newsletter, and keep at it month after month.
May 24, 2005
Free Local Keyword Tool
Creating localized keywords, internal links and Google Adwords campaigns is a great strategy if you are trying to win local searchers.
You know, the person that is looking for just the right remodeling contractor in their upscale suburb.
One strategy that I've employed is to sprinkle targeted suburb names in a visually pleasing, contextual way throughout your web copy. In other words, don't just list all of the suburbs in your community and expect it to make a difference.
If you write a blog, occasionally mention a local neighborhood, in your internal links, add city names [kansas city pet food] as opposed to [pet food].
Lastly, if you use pay-per-click advertising, (and since you can choose local options for advertising you should!) create keyword lists to bid on that contain all of the zip codes, neighborhoods, suburbs and communities you want to attract visitors from.
Anyone who has created this type of list can tell you that the work is tedious, to say the least. Your eventual list may be 400-500 entries long. Here's a free tool I stumbled across that automates a fair amount of the work of creating localized keyword lists. You just put in a zip code and determine how far out you want the search to go [how many mile radius], select some other features and presto you get a big fat list of keywords containing all of the localized info you could dream of (I found suburbs I didn't even know existed.)
Now, many of these very specific keyword terms won't get much traffic but, when they do, you will own the work and the traffic will be very targeted.
Check out the Free Local Keyword Tool
May 23, 2005
Yahoo Makes RSS Simple
I know a lot folks still don't get this whole RSS thing and that's because, well, it's a tad confusing.
Part of the problem really is the RSS isn't a thing really, it's more like a concept or a tool. What you make of it depends on a lot of things. So, RSS is a lot of things.
Yahoo recently put together a great little primer for RSS
I'd keep on eye on Yahoo as they eventually plan to put a Google AdSense type of offering together.
The more things on the Internet change, the more they get interesting!
May 20, 2005
Blogs, Web Sites and Email Together At Last
Blogs are hot and with reason. They help you tell your story, generate tremendous search engine attention and create content that can be syndicated and read by a growing number of people.
Having said that, let me state that blogs are only a tool and not THE tool that so many "Internet Marketing Gurus" would have you believe. Blogs can and should be on every marketers list as a powerful way to integrate and supplement the primary marketing messages. If you look at blogs that way, then you can begin to understand the true value of adding a blog to your marketing mix.
- Every small business should have in the marketing and communication toolbox:
- A Blog
- A Content Rich Web Site
- An Email Based Newsletter
- Educational Based Printed Materials
- White Papers Housed On Their Web Site
- A Referral Strategy
- A PR Strategy
. . . and a couple hundred other things!
The point is, let your marketing tools work together and you will find the greatest audience for your marketing message.
May 18, 2005
TypePad and TypeLists
One of the easiest ways to upgrade the look and permanent content of your TypePad blog is through the creative use of TypeLists.
TypeLists make up the content that runs down the right and left columns or sidebars of a TypePad blog. You can use a TypeList to display any HTML code in the sidebar. When you realize that fact, you can begin to understand that the possibilities for displaying custom content are pretty significant. Six Apart, the makers of TypePad have a very complete manual on the uses of TypeLists
Okay, back to TypeLists and what they can do. On this blog the sidebar contains custom TypeList content for my photo, subscription links, Google Adsense Ads, my Referral Flood book and a blogroll that is powered by Bloglines. Creating this type of content is all done with some simple HTML code and TypeLists.
Read the directions on how to use TypeLists from TypePad and start putting more customization into your blog.
Here are a couple of tips:
To get the custom look using HTML in your TypeList, choose a Link Type of List, paste the HTML code into the Notes section of the item and make sure you check the make notes visible selection. Then, after you create your TypeList, be sure to go back to the content section of your design and check the new TypeList for it to show.
May 13, 2005
More Blogging Opportunities
The folks over at eMarketer put together some research on the state of blogging.
My favorite tid bit from the summary is that somewhere between 50-60% of online surfers weren't sure what the term blog meant. People, do you see the opportunity that this presents?
Oh, and a head's up to Lee Odden at the Online Marketing Blog for the tip on the research
May 12, 2005
The Two Big Blog Questions
As I work with my blogging clients or present blogging topics at workshops I receive the same two questions without fail.
- How long should a blog post be?
- How often should you post?
I think that for me the best strategy seems to be mixing it up a bit. And this may be because that's how I write and that's how people process info. I generally advocate short, 300-400 word posts on average, but I think your blog is well served (readerwise and search engine wise) by the occasional - Hey did you see this link, type post too. In addition, I think that, like good coversations, every once in a while you can get a long one in. The bottom line is to balance keeping it interesting with keeping it manageable.
I guess you need to make sure you know why you are blogging in order to answer that one, but on the whole, if one of your goals is to develop a following, to get quoted in blogland often, to get links back to your blog and subscribers tuning in via their MyYahoo account, be prepared to post 4-5 times a week. Now, most of the blogging software allows you to date when your post appears. It is not considered bad blogging form to post some material on Tuesday to show up, say, on Friday. Don't rely on this technique exclusively though as you will miss out on the opportunity to provide your reader with hot scoop.
May 08, 2005
Make Auto Discovery One More Subscription Option
Sometimes visitors to your blog or web site want to find your RSS link so they can subscribe but get tired of looking around for it. (That's really another story though isn't it)
With just a bit of HTML trickery you can allow aggregators like Bloglines, FeedDemon and NewsGator to automatically find your RSS feed. All the user needs to do now is enter your site's URL and the feed will be added. Firefox has an autodiscovery feature that shows a little button in the browser bar when it discovers a feed. Again, all the user does is right click the icon and they subscribe using whatever RSS reader they already have configured.
Create the following HTML code and replace the feed title and url with your own and then paste this code in the <head> tag of your page.
<link rel='alternate' type='application/rss+xml' title='Your Feed Title' href='Yourfeedurl'>
Many blog services such as Typepad already do this for you but this can be particularly useful if you want to promote your feed on other pages of your web site.
May 05, 2005
Blog and Ping - A Search Engine Traffic Bonanza
This is an article that I posted in my newsletter at Duct Tape Marketing It's a little long for a blog post but I have received so many favorable comments I felt the need to publish it here too.
Everyone is talking about blogs these days as the magic money-making marketing tool. Some of the hype may actually be true, but I suggest you cut through most of what you read about blogs just long enough to understand why every business needs a blog.
Right now, that’s not to say this won’t change, search engines are in love with real blogs. By real blogs I mean blogs that are set-up and run by businesses that offer useful content on them. Like every successful marketing method there are people out there setting up fake blogs and dumping garbage, but keyword rich, content into them in order to trick the search engines into ranking the content highly. [Please resist the urge to add to this form of search engine spam as it may actually get you banned by a search engine.]
When you understand a little about how blog software works you get a better understanding about why search engines love blogs. Here are the top reasons that business blogs and search engines go hand in hand.
Lots of Pages
Each blog entry is shown in chronological order on a blog’s homepage but, each entry is in reality its own web page, with its own unique URL and title. So, an active blogger can create hundreds of keyword rich web pages in a matter of months.
Change Is Good
In order to claim your place at the blogging table you must commit to making posts often—4 or 5 times a week perhaps. This commitment means that you are creating, updating, changing some portion of your site several times a week. The typical small business web site is lucky to receive an update several times a year. Search engines like change.
Wake Up Call
Because search engines love changing content, they are ever ready to visit a site when it is updated. One feature unique to blog software is something called a pinging. Basically, what you are doing is sending out a message to various blog directories to come and visit you site because it has been updated. Once a search engine has located your site, this is like a personal invitation to come back and get the new stuff. I use a site called Ping-O-Matic to send pings to multiple services. Some blog software can be configured to do this automatically.
Blogs also have a built in distribution method known as RSS. This allows you to push your updated content out to people who subscribe through an RSS reader such as Bloglines or FeedDemon as well as Yahoo and MSN. This ability allows you to communicate directly with subscribers but it can also help get your main site noticed and indexed by the major search engines. Yahoo, for example, allows people (including you) to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed. On the day you create your blog, you can subscribe to it via a free MyYahoo account and Yahoo will visit and index your blog for free. It has no choice.
Linking Is Key
Part of the blogging culture is the predisposition to link to and from quality content that relates to the subject your are blogging about. In other words, bloggers like to link. Links from other high quality blogs will send traffic and get your blog and web site noticed.
So, your blog marketing strategy a little like this: Set-up a blog and start posting. Ping each time your make a new entry. Submit your blog to the major blog and RSS directories. Start looking for link partners. Repeat
In the last few weeks I set-up blogs for an attorney, a label manufacturer, and a remodeling contractor. In each case, the blogs were indexed and spidered by the major search engines within 48 hours. Traffic to the main web sites for these businesses (although a bit meager to start with) has already doubled or tripled. Traffic from each of the major search engines is now showing up for a large number of important search terms and phrases.
Who knows how long this blog traffic bonanza will last but at this moment a blog has never made more sense.
If you’re convinced that you need a blog but don’t want to hassle with setting it up and learning how to promote it properly, check out my basic blog coaching package. I do the work, you’re up and blogging and promoting your blog in a matter of days.
May 01, 2005
Comments and Trackbacks as networking tools
Almost every blog on the Internet has two functions that make blogging stand apart from web sites - comments and trackbacks.
Posting comments (unfortunately an area being polluted by spammers) is a great way to start a conversation with a blogger and that blogger's readers. In fact, if you don't yet write a blog, posting comments can be a great way to get your feet wet in the writing game. If you write comments that really add content to a site, you will build credibility with that site owner. This can be a great way to get invited to trade links with a more established site.
Trackbacks are a little trickier but function much like comments. Most blog software publishes a URL for every blog post that is called a trackback. Here is what a typical trackback URL looks like for this blog - http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2372664 The software produces the link and when someone copies it into a post, their remarks would then show up under the trackback link below.
If you read a post that you think your readers would enjoy you can write a post and allow your software to send a trackback to the blog where you found the original post. Then, your post may appear as an addition to the original post. This can be a great way to get some extra traffic from other sites. Like all things, add useful content and your trackbacks will be welcome, add junk and you will be a spammer.
One final point on this comment and trackback networking. Reach out and connect with people who are making comments on your blog, encourage them to post comments and comment on their comments. It's the best way to get the most from the interactive nature of blogs.